The Princess and the Fisherman

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic


in the mystical kingdom of Deuvair, the resourceful and determined Ephesus attempts to fulfill a dangerous quest and win the love of the beautiful Elisa, who tries to save herself from more than a
few enemies and earn his love in return.

Submitted: February 22, 2018

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Submitted: February 22, 2018

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Once upon a time, in the land Dauvair, there was a powerful tyrant named Anphus who lived in a golden castle on the other side of a mountain. He had long dark hair, bronze skin and terrifying green eyes. He was the very overprotective father of Princess Elisa, who was imprisoned within the castle’s highest tower to guard her from the world. Princess Elisa, like her father, had dark hair and skin, but her eyes were blue and kind. King Anphus lost his Queen, Ryinra, years before but none knew how. He ruled over a small village that housed warriors, farmers and fishermen but they all lived in fear of his heinous wrath. He would behead the soldiers he found disgraceful; he burned the fields of farmers who could not supply their crops. He had his soldiers drown fisherman who had not filled their quota. One such fisherman was named Ephesus. He was kind, gracious and enjoyed his work, yet he too held disdain for the king. But, he also harbored a secret desire for adventure, fueled by an intense, deep love for the princess. He would often skip pebbles onto the lake at sunrise, watching the golden light reflect off the mountain’s castle, dreaming of the day when he could marry her.

One fateful day, the princess secretly sent a servant with a heavy bag of stones to the village on the other side of the mountain, where he delivered a message: “I am desperate for freedom. Any man who can lift this bag of stones, cross the woodlands, wade through the river, walk over the mountain and lay these stones at my doorstep may wed me.”

Now, the mountain that bordered the King’s palace was no mere mountain. It kissed the sky and penetrated the clouds. The base was rooted in the part of the kingdom that saw many storms over many years as well as boasting savage beasts and snowy blizzards. It also lay at the edge of a forest of red trees that bordered a cool and clear river. Here, imprisoned on the other side of the stone castle, the princess awaited her champion. Meanwhile, many men in the village tried his luck at lifting the heavy bag of stones and carrying it up the mountain, though most believed the challenge was too great. Yet, not even the strongest warrior could lift it off the ground. 100 men attempted this task but they all deemed it impossible. The villagers, however, did not have enough combined strength to revolt against their king.

Finally, as a dark storm rose over the mountain, Ephesus, the feeble skinny fisherman, stepped forward to see if he could lift the bag of stones. As he did so, the crowds of stronger men laughed at him, jesting that he had no chance. But when Ephesus slung the bag over his shoulders, with his back bent from the weight, the laughter died. With his bag of stones on his back, a sack of bread and fish on his hip and his fishing hook in his hand, Ephesus resolved to make the slow, painful ascent through the woods, over the river and up the mountain towards Princess Elisa.

Ephesus crossed into the dark and twisted forest and was soon lost. The numerous halls of trees twisted into a dizzying labyrinth that tangled and torrented the poor fisherman. His bag of stones weighed heavily on his back and night fell. Ephesus’s heart rattled with adrenaline and he started a fire to keep warm. But as the fire began to glow, a hooded figure wearing a red cloak emerged from the trees.

“Who’s there?” Ephesus called out. His voice echoed in the darkness. There was no reply, but the intruder inched closer.  When he unfolded his hands, revealing a stick, Ephesus grabbed his spear and prepared to throw it at the intruder. But then he heard a voice.

“Wait!”

The figure removed his hood and Ephesus relented. The voice was breathy, feeble but full of knowledge.

“Syphus?” Ephesus peered into the trees and the mysterious being removed his hood, revealing a wrinkled face, stubborn brow and brown warm eyes glowing in the fire’s light. The man’s long white beard also tumbled to the forest floor. Ephesus breathed a sigh of relief.

“You’re lucky I’m patient, Syphus.” he said, taking the man under his arm to sit towards the fire.

“Oh, my boy, to have patience is one thing. But it is how you use it that results in good or bad luck.” Syphus sat beside the young man as Ephesus prepared a kettle of tea.

“So, what brings you here to the Red Wood, Ephesus? Wood sprites? Drunken soldiers? Another mythical being you insist you saw on your boat?

“How about all three?” Ephesus answered, pouring the old man a cup.

Syphus shook his head with a raised eyebrow. “What are you up to, boy?”

Ephesus grinned. “Syphus, you know of the princess has sent forth a decree: “Any man who can lift this bag of stones, cross the woodlands, wade through the river, walk over the mountain and lay these stones at my doorstep may wed me.”

“So, what? You believe you will fulfill her quest?” Syphus questioned.

“I can do more than that, my friend. The princess also spoke of His Excellency, and that she longs to be free of his tyranny. You know of my love for her. And you know I will never give up. She is not just a myth. Syphus, Elisa is my destiny."

Syhpus sighed. “T’was long ago I knew of your desires, Ephesus. A young girl can set one’s heart ablaze faster than you can spark this fire. But be warned, boy-”

But before Syphus could continue, the fire was doused; but not by water. It was vanquished by an Orif, an evil ogre that lived to chew on human flesh. He lunged for the old man and the young fisherman and caught the horrified Syphus in his claws. Syphus screamed in anguish as the oirf slashed the hermit’s neck, threw him down and dove for the fisherman. But Ephesus grabbed his fishing hook and speared the fiend in his belly. Blood and bile spurted out of the creature’s body and onto the red bark of the now stained tree. Yet, even as his howl pierced the night, the orif continued to fight. His skin refused to break against steel, his foul breath filled Ephesus’s nose and his filthy claws scraped the hero's arms and torso. The young man was frantic for a way to conquer the beast and grabbed a discarded oak branch. Ephesus set it ablaze and watched in horror as the monster’s eyes glowed in the light until his entire body was bathed in flame. Finally, with his scream echoing into the wood, the ogre tumbled lifeless to the forest floor. With his heart still pounding, Ephesus ran to Syphus’s side, hoping to save him.

“Ephesus…” Syphus groaned, his heart slowing and his breath no more than a whisper.

“Don’t talk, don’t talk.” Ephesus rebuked, trying to stem the red river flowing out of Syphus’s chest. “You’re going to be alright. Syphus, look at me.”

The old man’s eyes looked up, as his shaking hand reached out. He gripped Ephesus’s hand and placed into it a golden ring set with a jade stone.

That small still strong voice came again.“Your heart will guide you The closer you get...the brighter it glows.” he whispered. “Save her.”

His eyes filling with tears, Ephesus nodded. “Thank you, my friend.”

Syphus smiled and breathed his last breath. Ephesus held him close in the dark night that passed. By dawn’s rise, the young man buried the old under a fallen red tree, inscribing upon the bark: “Here lies Syphus the Wise.” It took Ephesus the rest of the day to cross the forest, but as a second night fell, he knew this time to keep his guard up.

As Ephesus made his way towards the mystical river, Princess Elisa stared at him from a magic mirror inside her golden tower. She was so touched by how far he was willing to go that her heart melted for him. She knew he was going to marry her even if it killed him. But Elisa felt there was more she could do than watch his journey from her golden prison. But her father Anphus angrily rebuked her, declaring with a berage of slaps that if she dared ascend up the mountain, he would personally see to it that she never returned. Princess Elisa mournfully relented, spending a dark, sleepless night staring intently out the window.

As the night wore on, Ephesus came upon the cool, clear misty lake that lay still as glass. His breath cooled and his heart slowed to a simple pulse. The air was still and he dared not move. Suddenly, the water began to ripple and sway before him. As the mist parted, a figure rose from the waves. Ephesus stood resolute and fearful, holding his fishing spear aloft. This mythical figure walked towards him in shadow but then Ephesus lit a torch, exposing her face. This enchanting creature was Slerina, a siren cursed to the waves whose lilting voice led even the strongest men to a watery grave. Slerina’s skin was dark blue and her black tangled hair was matted with crabs, fish and seaweed. Her dress was decorated with water lilies, the skeletons of soldiers and kimono fish. She smiled a gleaming grin at Ephesus and his skin crawled. Her black eyes glinted in the misty river. She was beautifully terrifying.

But the fisherman emboldened his courage and said, “Spirit of the river, I ask to cross.”

Slerina laughed and Ephesus felt his spine shiver. “Is that all?”

Her teeth gleamed white in the darkness and her crabs crawled around her skin. She walked slowly around Ephesus, stroking his shoulders and kissing him sweetly.

Ephesus nodded, resolute as always.

“I hear you want more than that, boy.” Slerina hissed. “You want the golden girl. That precious jewel in her golden tower awaiting her handsome champion. You want what all heroes want: to live happily ever after.” The sarcasm dripped from her voice like the water that surrounded the two and Ephesus swallowed hard. Serline was also known for her quick hands and stole the precious golden ring from the fisherman’s pocket before he could notice.

“I will not fall prey to your deceptions, you fiend.” Ephesus proclaimed, his hands shaking.

“Really? You’re immune to me?” Slerina hissed.

Then, Slerina raised her arms and the waters rose around her. Ephesus blocked his sight as he feared she would turn into a hideous creature. But when he raised his eyes, it was Princess Elisa, that golden girl, who met his gaze. Ephesus was overwhelmed by her beauty and dropped his sword at the base of the river.

She smiled at him and beckoned the silent Ephesus forward. “Like me more now, fisherman?”

Slerina beckoned to him and whispered, “You want your happy ending, don’t you Ephesus? Here I am.” Ephesus, locked under her spell, walked into the water, unwavering towards his supposed true love. She placed her arms around him and pressed her lips to his. Ephesus felt the kiss, but his heart cried out to pull back.

“No. No…” he whispered. “This isn’t real.”

The siren, also startled by this, pulled back. “And this doesn’t feel real to you?” the creature replied, kissing the hero more aggressively this time, wrapping him in her arms tightly. But Ephesus again pulled out of her slimy grasp.

“I know what love is. I have felt it. And you give me nothing but pleasure. Love is pleasurable but there is so much more to it.”

“Is there?” Slerina replied, her smile fading to hatred. “Well, hero, looks like you won’t be getting your happy ending.”

Slerina pounced on Ephesus with all her strength and dragged him under the depths of the river. She glued her lips to his as the waters weighed them down, sucking away his life. But Ephesus heart was far stronger than her muscles and he fought valiantly, struggling desperately for air. Floating all around them were the skeletons of dead warriors also pulled into their watery graves. Suddenly, even as his vision faded and the river closed in, Ephesus spotted a small dagger at the bottom of the sea floor. He went limp for one moment, allowing Slerina to release him, believing him dead. But it was enough, as Ephesus grabbed the dagger from the lake floor and shoved it deep into her chest. Slerina burst from the water as her lungs were shocked with pain. The demon let out a horrific shriek and collapsed beneath the bloody sea. Her true form was now betrayed, as the great beauty was revealed as a haggard wrinkled old woman with long gray hair and a sunken face.

Ephesus then pulled his golden ring from her wrinkled finger and swam back to the shore, stowing the bloody dagger onto his belt along with his fish hook. Then, he looked down and saw a seed washed ashore by the waves. He pocketed it and again mounted the stones upon his bruised and blackened back, continuing on his path to the beautiful Princess Elisa. At the dawn’s rise, Ephesus arrived at the base of the stone mountain. He could barely see the glint of Princess Elisa’s golden ring through the grey clouds and wind that whipped his hair. Ephesus slung the bag of stones back over himself and took a deep breath. Here was his final obstacle.

Meanwhile, as Ephesus risked life and limb to reach the princess, the princess herself could wait no longer. Elisa knew she had to meet her champion face to face and ensure the two of them would live a happy life together, no matter the cost. She felt incredibly guilty for doing nothing while Ephesus risked his life for her. There was no way she was worthy of his love unless she was willing to do the same for him. But first, she had to conquer the beast that left her beset in her prison. In the dead of night, Princess Elisa threw on her cloak with only a crossbow at her side, raced down the steps of her tower and faced the stone door between herself and freedom. She opened the creaking wood and stepped delicately outside into the dark corridor. The light of the torches upon the walls cast eerie shadows that tricked her eyes and fogged her brain. But the young maid was determined to be free.

As her footsteps echoed through the castle, Elisa’s memories swirled of her father. His anger, his ridicule, his fists...his words. She shuddered. The princess gripped her bow and turned the corner. She stood before King Anphus’s bedchamber and snuck in without making a sound. She knew she had to do this.

In a large canopy bed laden with white sheets lay not the King, but his mistress, Meloria, a young chamber maid with bright blonde hair. She stirred in her sleep and her eyes flashed open. But Elisa lay her hand over the girl’s mouth and whispered, “Not a word.”

Meloria’s eyes bulged and she nodded.

“Where is he?” Elisa asked, her voice barely audible.

The girl pointed towards the opposite door inside the chamber and Elisa turned. She gripped her crossbow with a rigid hand and stepped forward. The door creaked open and there stood King Anphus, dressed in a black robe. His bright green eyes screened the room like a hawk searching for its prey and froze on his daughter. He snapped his fingers.

“Meloria. Out.” His voice, deep and smooth, echoed into the darkness. Meloria scampered out of the bed and ran into the hall. Elisa stayed still and faced her father.

“Elisa, unsheath your sword.” he commanded.

Elisa gripped it instead and was silent.

The King stared her down and said, “This is how you behave? Disobeying me has always been your pleasure. You enjoy enraging me.”

“You enjoy giving pain.” Elisa shot back. Anphus stiffened in anger. “All my life, you saw me as something to hurt. I never once saw the world beyond these walls. But I heard the cries of the men you burned, the weeping of women you raped, the suffering of the people you should be ruling.”

“Keeping those beneath us in line-”

“Keeping those we protect”

“A terrible burden. But I must be terrible to keep the peace. Fear keeps them in line. I sacrifice peace for the sake of prosperity.” The King unsheathed a dagger from behind his robes and held it close.

“And what of my peace, Father?” Elisa asked, her voice shaking. “What of me? You shackle me, slap me, berage me with foul words.”

“I do.” Anphus replied, his eyes brimming with macabre malice. “Because you are my daughter. You have always been my daughter.” The King’s mouth grinned, thinking of the blood he would soon spill. Elisa’s own blood was steaming with fury.

He stepped forward and continued. “One day, you will rule as I do.” Anphus suddenly raised the dagger to his daughter’s throat as Elisa’s breath was caught in her chest.

The King stood toe to toe with his daughter, peering close into her eyes.

But they stared back. “Go ahead, kill me.” she said. “Just like you killed my mother.”

“Queen Ryinra was weak, Elisa.” Anphus growled in Elisa’s ear. “She never knew her place. And neither do you.”

“I know my place, Father. It’s right here.” Elisa was too quick. As the words left her mouth, she wrenched herself from her father’s grasp, raised her crossbow and fired. The bolt shot through the air into her father’s chest. He backed into the doorway, staggering and gasping for breath. Blood spurted from the wound as Elisa reloaded. The King’s fury erupted at last. He struggled to rise but Elisa drew her sword and slashed his legs. Her shrieks of repressed anguish cut through the air with each blow. Anphus tried to punch but she grabbed an unlit torch and bashed his fists.

He kept screaming nonetheless.“You whore! None will remember your name! You will never see the light of day again! I am your father!”

As blood filled his lungs, Elisa simply stood over her father as his life drained away. “You were right about one thing, Father. I am your daughter.”

The princess shot her bolt again, this time into the King’s screaming mouth. King Anphus’s eyes bulged before he choked on his own blood and fell to the floor, dead. Elisa dropped the crossbow without a single backwards glance. She climbed down another flight of stairs, threw open the door and relished in the cold, crisp air upon her face. She began to climb the mountain, her clothes still soaked in her father’s blood, determined to earn her happy ending. As Elisa pushed fiercely up the mountain, she heard footsteps approach her. Growling echoed in her ear and she pulled out her sword. Suddenly, savage wolves and bloodthirsty lions leapt out at her, hungry for fresh meat. With her heart pounding, Elisa slashed wildly at the beasts, her voice silenced in fear. The lion’s teeth glinted in the metal and her eyes widened in horror. The snow whirled around the wolves and the princess as she battled her way through the howling beasts. Her black hair froze in the blizzard as the wolves surrounded the girl, ripped her cloak to shreds and she raced into a dark cavern. But the wolves followed her and backed her into a corner. Smelling her father’s blood on her clothes, the wolves pounced closer and chomped achingly at her flesh.

In desperation, with her adrenaline pumping, Elisa shrieked and grabbed her fallen sword. She stabbed one wolf in the neck and the blood spurted onto her face. But the remaining pack inched even closer. In despair, the princess sawed through her wrist, chopped off her own hand and threw it to the wolves, who hungrily chased after the meat and melted into the white mist. Elisa’s heart burned in her chest, pumping out the hot red blood onto the freezing snow. The ice numbed the pain as her arm soon turned black and Elisa’s eyes filled with tears. Her head was spinning as images of her father’s body returned and her eyes glazed over. She started to weep but saw a figure standing before her. Fearful it was her father returned from the grave Elisa tried to fight, but she passed out.

When she came to, the princess was being embraced by the ghost of Syphus, who told her, “My daughter, the world is a cruel place, where good people suffer through terrible things. But you must live. Ascend this mountain, gaze upon the face of your champion and someday, happiness will be yours.” Syphus vanished as the fog swirled into mysterious shapes and her tears froze on her cheeks. But the inspired princess continued on her saga to meet her lover. She took a wolf carcass and skinned the beast, wearing its skin as a cloak. Step by step, day after day, Ephesus and Elisa walked across the blistering cold and rainy terrain into darkness looking for each other. The fisherman came upon the dead skeletons of former princes who’d made this rigorous journey, now torn to pieces by the hungry beasts that lingered.

However, as Ephesus and Elisa reached a cliff, their strength failed them. The cold whipped his bones and her heart became weak as blood pumped from her sawed appendage. His back cracked under the weight of his stones and her lips turned blue. Finally, after countless days and nights, Ephesus came to the top of the mountain just as Elisa also reached the summit. Exhausted, disoriented and frostbitten, Ephesus collapsed unconscious into the snow and Elisa passed out at the end of a trail of blood. Echoes of their voices blew on the wind to the other, but due to the blinding blizzard, the lovers were unaware they had fallen right in front of each other. Then, a cloaked figure with great wings swooped down and carried the princess and the fisherman over the side of the mount and into a golden palace. As the two began to heal, Ephesus and Elisa slipped in and out of the world day after day, whispering each other’s names and seeing only phantasms sway before their eyes. But as the days flew by, the lovers were met by an old friend.

Ephesus awakened first from his illness and saw a familiar face standing before him.

“Syphus!” the fisherman cried.

“Yes, my boy.” Syphus replied and embraced his friend.

Ephesus looked around in interest. “What happened?” he asked.

Syphus replied with misty eyes. “You collapsed on the mountain’s summit, my dear boy. I had to bring you here.”

“Where are we?” Ephesus looked around the room, but could not describe it. Yet, he saw that it was peaceful, safe and warm and light filled the air. “Is Elisa…?”

“She’s waiting for you.” Syphus continued. “I brought you to a better place, Ephesus. Somewhere you both could have your happy ending.”

Ephesus was quiet but Syphus continued. “Worry not about the past, my son. Instead, look forward to your future. A future where you and Elisa will be together forever.”

Ephesus dressed himself in a white tunic with golden accents and a long flowing white cape, eager to finally look into his lover’s eyes. He stood before a door as Syphus recited a couplet: “Ephesus, from Earth to the heavens you’ve endured dark times. Now, walk through the door and claim your prize.”

Syphus vanished and appeared before Elisa, who had awakened in a separate chamber and was happy to see him again. When he told her what had happened, she recalled what her father had said was false, as she knew it would be. Yet, Elisa was more berieved that Ephesus would not accept her as a lesser version of herself. But Syphus assured the princess her beloved would look with his heart, not his eyes. Elisa still was eager to meet her champion and was dressed in a splendid white gown and veil. She stood before the same door but this time, Syphus gave her a different couplet: “Elisa, from Earth below you have earned a heavenly bliss. Now, walk through the door and marry your prince.”

The door was opened and the two were thunderstruck. There before Elisa stood her valiant champion in his gleaming silver armor.  Before Ephesus stood the beautiful Princess in her glorious white gown. The shaking fisherman knelt before her as she smiled with happiness and bowed in return. The glow of candlelight alone illuminated their splendor and Ephesus laid the bag of stones at Elisa’s feet, now changed into rubies and jade stones. Here stood the most grueling test of all. The princess and the fisherman had crossed mysterious boundaries, braved torrentus changes in nature, suffered personal losses and beaten dangerous thrilling trials to reach this moment. But now, they had to speak as equals. Their hearts had never beaten so quickly.

Elisa timidly asked, “Ephesus, how were you able to fulfill my quest?”

Ephesus replied, “I carried those stones through many storms for you, dear angel. But the stones were not stones to me. They were the pebbles I scattered across the water in my boat, hoping one day we could be together. Your forest was only a bridge to your heart, a bridge I had to offer a great sacrifice to cross. But it was the right cost to make, as I received a just reward.” Ephesus then knelt before Elisa and slipped his golden ring onto her finger. “Your river was merely a puddle I stepped through. This mountain was only one more step towards you, a step I would take ten times more. Princess, you made my heart light when my back was heavy.”

Ephesus rose and asked tenderly, “Elisa, why did you want to find me?”

Elisa smiled and replied, “I went in search of you to appease my heart’s desire. I lost my heart to you the first moment I saw you. If we were meant to be together, Ephesus, I wanted to meet you on my own terms. I wanted to be worthy of your love. But my determination made me blind and I too paid a heavy price. But I would have gladly lost even my head if it meant being with you. Ephesus, yours is a love I will gladly accept. Once I was blind, but now I can see.”

Elisa stretched out her arms to the hero and Ephesus kissed his bride. A pulse of energy whipped through the air as the dawn burst toward the horizon, exposing a gleaming palace laden with feasts, music and joy. The heavens burst open and the earth shook to its core. At last, the mountain that had separated the kingdom from its rulers crashed into nothing. Ephesus and Elisa rebuilt their golden castle at the border of the crystal blue lake next to the red forest that bordered the prosperous village. As the air filled with celebration, Princess Elisa and Prince Ephesus joined hands, pledged their hearts to each other and were married. After the ceremony, the two planted the magical seed from the river at the base of their palace. There amidst the snow grew a mystical red tree with golden leaves; a symbol of the love that would bloom evermore. And so, the princess and the fisherman lived happily ever after.


© Copyright 2018 Mya Maola. All rights reserved.

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